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Recovery Care Team provides support to Wounded Warriors

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Maria Bowman
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
When Airmen are wounded in the line of duty or when they or a family member experience chronic or catastrophic illness, navigating the recovery process and healthcare system can be a complex and overwhelming process.

But, thanks to Recovery Care Teams across the Air Force, Airmen have a group of caring individuals whose sole job is to provide medical and case management support throughout their personal journey as part of the Air Force's Wounded Warrior program.

At Scott Air Force Base there are three medical case managers and one recovery care coordinator on the team, including Catherine Morgan, a medical case manager. She assists active duty service members who require extensive use of resources and are in need of assistance navigating the healthcare system. She coordinates their medical needs and serves as their single point of contact to help guide, educate, and empower them.

"Our ultimate goal is for the service member to independently manage his or her own healthcare and medical needs," Morgan said. "I enjoy getting to know my patients as individuals, as well as developing professional working relationships with them and their families to meet their needs. Each person is unique and their journey is their own; their diagnosis does not define them. I get a great sense of personal enrichment advocating for my patients and providing them the tools needed for a successful outcome. It's so rewarding seeing a patient deal with their illness or injury in a meaningful and constructive way as they find their new normal, which oftentimes can be life changing."

The RCT comes in contact with a variety of patients, each with his or her own challenges. The cases can range from a service member returning from a deployment with a traumatic brain injury to a family member who has just received a cancer diagnosis.

Donna Stewart, RCT medical care manager, explained, "In these cases, the patient's world has been turned upside down. I find satisfaction in knowing that I can provide the guidance and assistance they need most that can help to make their world upright again. Our team works very closely with Airmen and their families to make sure they are receiving the best possible care they can, whatever their diagnosis or condition may be. We are able to do the job, because we have worked diligently to establish good communication and good working relationships with the providers within the military treatment facility, as well as with staff and providers in the local community to include the St Louis area."

Jennifer Welch, RCT recovery care coordinator, provides nonmedical case management and support to recovering service members and their families as they travel through the identification, recovery, rehabilitation, fitness evaluation, reintegration/transition, and sustainment process. Welch, who retired from the Air Force and is a former first sergeant, said she is blessed to be able to continue on her life's mission of helping people.

"These patients are fellow brothers-and-sisters-in arms, and I am so fortunate to be able to connect every one of them with first class support, and sometimes a caring and understanding conversation to help them navigate through their journey of life that has taken a turn that is sometimes not expected," Welch said.

"Wounded Warriors, whether combat injured or non-combat ill/injured are facing challenges that most of us cannot even begin to fathom. It is important to ensure all their needs are met, and they are provided with the best quality of care, because they are so valuable as an Airman, a son, a daughter, a mother, a father, a brother, a sister ... to the Air Force family and their own families. When Wounded Warriors return to duty they are often thankful to be able to contribute to the mission, so anything we can do to help return them to duty and make this dream possible is the greatest reward."

Patient care can be a rewarding and emotional experience for the team as well. Etta Dalton, RCT medical case manager, said working with a strong, supportive team helps with her resiliency and increases her happiness at work.

"The best experiences I've had working with this team is the feeling of satisfaction and the sense of accomplishment that comes out of hard work, stress, and lots of laughter," Dalton said. "One of the most important things I feel is that this team works together with positive energy, and has a sense of cohesiveness and pride."

Lt. Col. Leontyne Fields, 375th Medical Support Group health care integrator, said, "This team approach alleviates the undue stress and uncertainty for Wounded Warriors and their families. They (RCT) go above and beyond by coordinating interstate physical, speech, and cognitive therapies. They provide home visits, and obtain service dogs and Polytrauma/TBI care for our proud veterans.

The RCT is instrumental in educating the base community, supervisors and commanding officers on resources available to Wounded Warriors and veterans. They continually strive to create a program for all patients and family members to receive top-notch coordinated care. We are grateful for our team."